The iPod and iPod Shuffle in particular, are the new radio. Radio in the US has become so formulaic and predictable with one company alone owning over 1650 stations. An iPod fills the role that radio used to fill – playing the music I want to listen to. Well, more accurately, playing the “stuff” I want to listen to because not all radio is music. Except an iPod really does play my music and my stuff – not what a program director thinks I want to listen to, but what I really want to listen to. Shuffle mode makes it even more like radio because it is the music I want to listen to but like radio I have no control over the order it’s played. iPod, the new radio.
There’s another phenomenon that has rapidly grown under the radar: Podcasting. Podcasters create an audio show which, with the help of software is automatically delivered to your iTunes and subsequently to your iPod if you synchronize. As the developers of iPodderX say on their site “Fresh content, automatically” – what could be a better description of radio? Fresh content, of the type you want to listen to, automatically. With radio you tuned in: with podcasting it’s delivered to your iPod without any more effort than tuning in a radio. Podcasting really got started in the second half of 2004. We’ve been streaming our long running DV Guys show since April 2000 but we’ve only been podcasting since October 2004. We are now regularly getting comments “I listen to the show more often because it’s Podcast”.
Podcasting is a rapidly growing phenomenon feeding off the success of the iPod – no doubt a result of the law of unintended consequences.
Where audio leads, video follows. We are already seeing the beginnings of video podcasting. Video podcasting, of some form, to some device is almost certainly going to be a major influencer in the way people consume media. Think about it. The programs you want to watch will be automatically delivered to your media server ready for consuming on your schedule. Should ever Apple do a video iPod that would be a logical place of consumption, but failing that, a Mac Mini as home media server has got to be on the horizon. Already video podcasts are being directed at video-equipped 3GPP cell phones.
Significant uptake of video podcasting could lead to serious changes in content distribution channels as well as open distribution opportunities for new content because video podcasting will “break” the real time delivery barrier. Because podcasts are pulled ‘in the background’ there’s no limit on the bandwidth so good quality standard definition or high definition can readily be delivered (using H.264/AVC) to whatever delivery device you use. Bandwidth remains an issue for the small content creator – become successful and die on a new variation of the “Slashdot effect.”
There are people working on using a Bit Torrent to solve the bandwidth problem for smaller (i.e. not huge mega corporation) content providers.
Whether the programming is the DV Guys podcast or the latest HD mega-movie delivered to my home media server for consumption when I want, to having purchased it from the iMovie online store, the future is going to be different than the past and present with the strangle-hold on distribution broken.